Thesis and Dissertation Formatting Guidelines

The following format guidelines are intended to help you prepare your master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation and should be used in conjunction with the specific style adopted by your academic program. It is your responsibility to conform to the following format requirements and ensure that your manuscript’s presentation is of the highest quality. Because requirements may change over time, students should not use existing library or departmental copies of manuscripts as examples of proper format.

Graduate Studies strongly suggests that both your committee chair and the Graduate Studies Manuscript Coordinator, Mayra Estrada ( review a draft of your entire manuscript before you electronically submit it to the UNM Digital Repository.

The Manuscript Coordinator is available to help you with issues related to format. You may contact the Manuscript Coordinator at (505) 277-2711 or by email, If you are calling from out of state, you may call 1-800-225-5866, press 5 for the Graduate Office and ask to speak to the Manuscript Coordinator. Please click on each section below for more information.

Note: Paid editing and/or formatting services are available from people not employed by the Graduate Studies office. Check the bulletin board located outside the Manuscript Coordinator's office at Graduate Studies, Humanities Building, Room 107, for listings.

Rights of the Author and the University:

Your graduate unit has the right to require that you provide them with a copy of your thesis or dissertation, and that certain original records and materials be retained as the property of the University. Publication rights to the thesis or dissertation are reserved to you as the author.

Deadline Dates

The final version of your thesis or dissertation must be submitted to Graduate Studies by:

  • November 15 for Fall (Check with Graduate Studies for the date of graduation)
  • April 15 for Spring (Check with Graduate Studies for the date of graduation)
  • July 15 for Summer (Check with Graduate Studies for date of graduation)

Writing a Thesis or Dissertation in a Language Other than English

With the approval of a student’s thesis or dissertation committee and the Dean of Graduate Studies, a manuscript may be written in a language other than English. However, the manuscript must be accompanied by an abstract in English approved by the committee.

Accompanying Forms

The following forms must be submitted before your manuscript will be accepted by the Dean of Graduate Studies.

  • A Certificate of Final Form: You must submit this with your manuscript.
  • An Information Cover Sheet: This is a Graduate Studies form that is submitted before electronic manuscript submission.
  • A "Survey of Earned Doctorate" (doctoral students only excluding MFA/EDD) - the survey is completed online.
  • A Doctoral Dissertation Agreement Form-University Microfilms International (UMI) booklet entitled "Publishing your Dissertation" (see below): This is required for dissertation students only, and is optional for thesis students. The form is completed online.
  • If your department requires, a Report on Thesis or Dissertation ("gray sheet"), completed by each member of your committee: These are often sent separately after the defense by the graduate unit; if given to the student for submission with the manuscript, they should be sealed in an envelope by the graduate unit and marked "Confidential." Ask your department for more information.

You may use the template for the front matter pages, on our Templates Page.

Submitting to ProQuest (Doctoral Students Only)

If you are a doctoral candidate (excluding MFA/EDD), you are required to have your dissertation published by ProQuest (formally known as UMI). This will bring your work to the attention of researchers in your field in a variety of ways. Your abstract will appear in Dissertation Abstracts International, which is considered the authoritative source for concise summaries of current doctoral research. Your entire dissertation will be published by ProQuest.

ProQuest Publishing does not require payment of a registration fee for doctoral students who submit via the ProQuest ETD Administrator website.  Doctoral students must select the "traditional publishing" option and not the "open access" option to activate the no registration fee feature, otherwise they will be charged as shown below.

Students are responsible for the associated fee, which is currently $65 for traditionally published dissertations that are not submitted via the ProQuest ETD Administrator website and $160 for open access dissertations; $55 for traditionally published and $150 for open access theses. Both the ProQuest registration form and fee must be submitted with your dissertation electronically. The registration fee is payable by credit card.

ProQuest provides copyrighting of dissertations as a supplementary service when the work is being registered with them. The current fee for copyrighting is $65.

The publication or copyrighting of master’s theses by ProQuest is optional.


Registering Your Copyright

Registering your copyright in your thesis or dissertation is optional. Under current United States copyright law, the moment you reduce a work to a tangible medium (i.e., write it on paper, save on hard drive or other storage device, take the photograph, record the music, etc.) your thesis or dissertation is copyrighted. This applies to unpublished manuscripts as well. There is no longer the need to register your work for copyright. Furthermore, there is no longer the requirement of putting a copyright notice on a work for it to be copyrighted. You may register your copyright either by having ProQuest do so (see above) or on your own by submitting a registration form, which you can pick up at Zimmerman Library Government Publications or download from US Copyright Office's web page, with a check for $35, and two copies of your thesis or dissertation. Additional information can be obtained by calling 202-287-8700 or visiting the US Copyright Office website.

Including Copyrighted Material in Your Manuscript

You should remember that if you quote or otherwise reproduce in your thesis or dissertation material previously copyrighted by another author, beyond brief excerpts, you must obtain written permission from the copyright owner. Keep in mind that if a work was created in or after 1989, there is no requirement that it have a copyright notice to be copyrighted. This includes foreign works and foreign works for which the copyright has been reinstated pursuant to international treaty.

Copyright law is extremely complex and it can be difficult to determine what action you need to take and where to begin looking for permissions. The web sites listed below contain a great deal of information and have been helpful to students. Graduate Studies does not provide copyright advisement.


All manuscript pages must be 8.5"x11" ("letter size"). 


The left margin of each page must be 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 inches, and the top, right, and bottom margins 1 inch. Additional information is available here.

Placement of Page Numbers

There are only two ways to paginate your manuscript: upper right hand corner and bottom center. If your page numbers are at the bottom, leave two blank line spaces between the last line of text and the line on which the page number is placed. Whether they are at the top or the bottom, page numbers should appear just outside the 1-inch margins (.5 to .8 inches from the top or bottom edge of the page. Whichever method of pagination is selected, it must be followed consistently. Use lower-case Roman numerals for the front matter (which is all pages before the body of research), create section break and continue (beginning again with page "1") with Arabic numerals for the remainder of the manuscript, including the text, illustrations, appendices and references. Additional information is available here

Type and Font

Your manuscript should be double-spaced (one and a half spaces can be used if approved by the chair of your committee) and single-sided. References may be single-spaced with a double space between each reference. Indented quotations may also be single-spaced. Use a professional quality font (e.g., Arial, Times Roman, Courier or Helvetica). Font size for your text should be 12 point; headings may be up to 14 point. Fonts for tables, figures, and appendices may range from 8 to 12 point.


The style of your thesis or dissertation may follow any one of many standard style guides, as preferred by your graduate unit, or the style considered standard in your particular discipline. You should consult your advisor for preferences or additional requirements your department may have. In any case, your manuscript must be internally consistent.


Thesis or dissertation manuscripts are generally divided into three sections: the Front Matter, the Body of Research, and the Reference Matter. Detailed information about each section is provided below.

For a visual reference to format the Front Matter, reference the examples of completed front matter here. A Thesis Example and a Dissertation Example will help you format the Front Matter for pagination and the placement of the proper order of the Front Matter pages.

Approval Page

The Approval Page is the first page of the Front Matter and the manuscript. Count this as page "i". Type the names of the committee members on the lines provided at the center of the page. No signatures are required. Additional information is available here.

Title Page

The Title page contains the title of your manuscript, your name, your previous degrees (including your majors, institutions and years centered on the page). Count the title page as page "ii". The degree you will be receiving at UNM, and the month and year of your graduation should be listed toward the bottom of the page (check with Graduate Studies for the graduation date). When listing the degree to be awarded, please refer to the Master’s and Doctoral Degree List. Do not use abbreviations. Additional information is available here

Dedication Page

(Optional) This is an optional page. If you use one, number it in appropriate sequence with a lower-case Roman numeral. The title must be in capital letters, centered just below the top margin of the page. The dedication itself may be single or double-spaced.

Acknowledgement Page

(Optional) This is also an optional page. If you use one, number it in appropriate sequence with a lower-case Roman numeral. The title must be in capital letters, centered just below the top margin of the page. The acknowledgment itself may be single or double-spaced.

Abstract Page

On the Abstract page first list the title of your manuscript, your name, all degrees you have already earned (in chronological order), and the degree to be awarded. These lines should be centered on the page, beginning just below the top margin. Then double-space, and on the following line, center the word ABSTRACT. Double-space again before beginning the text of your abstract. Use paragraph indentation as appropriate. The text itself should be either one and a half spaces or double-spaced. Number the Abstract Page in appropriate sequence with a lower-case Roman numeral.

Dissertation/Thesis abstracts are limited to 150 words. 

Table of Contents

The Table of Contents page is counted and numbered with a lower-case Roman numeral. If you have used a List of Figures (optional) and/or a List of Tables (optional) , they must be included in your Table of Contents. Tab leaders should be used between the heading levels and the page numbers. (DO NOT simply type dots across the page--the spacing will not work properly. Instead, set a dot leader tab. Check "dot leader tab" in Microsoft Word in the "help" for more information. If you have multiple appendices, they must each be listed (see section on Appendices).

List of Figures

(If Applicable) Use a separate page after the Table of Contents. This page is counted and numbered with a lower-case Roman numeral. It may be single- or double-spaced. Tab leaders should be used between the title of the figures and page the numbers. This page should be listed at the beginning of the Table of Contents.

List of Tables

(If Applicable) Use a separate page after the Table of Contents. This page is counted and numbered with a lower-case Roman numeral. It may be single- or double-spaced. Tab leaders should be used between the title of the tables and the page numbers. This page should be listed after the List of Figures at the beginning of the Table of Contents.

Preface Page

(Optional) This page is counted and numbered with a lower-case Roman numeral.

Beginning with the first page of text in the Body of Research (begin again with page "1"), pages are numbered with sequential Arabic numerals through the end of your manuscript. Each chapter/major division of the text must start on a new page. Each of these lead pages should be counted and numbered.


Figures may include diagrams, charts, drawings, schematics, photographs, etc. Each of the two required copies of your manuscript must contain its own original figures, with the exception of photographs, in which case both may be high-quality copies either in color or black and white. Figures should be inserted as near as reasonably possible to the text to which they relate. They should be numbered consecutively with Arabic numerals as part of the continuing text.

Figures and their captions must appear on the same page, within the required margins. If captions are more than one line long, they may be single-spaced. They should be placed on paper of the same size and weight as the rest of the manuscript. Colored materials are acceptable, but since color does not reproduce on microfilm, an alternate key should be provided if it will be needed for interpretation of the figure in black and white.


Tables that are a half-page or shorter in size may be placed at the top or the bottom of the page, or in the center, with text above and below. Tables may also be placed alone on the page immediately following the page that refers to them. The placement of tables should be consistent throughout the manuscript. Tables continuing for more than one page should be labeled [e.g., Table 1 (cont.)], and oversized tables should be treated in the same way as oversized figures (see above).

Reference Matter may include notes to the text, appendices, a glossary, a list of references, and an index. The appendices and references are the two most commonly used categories. Detailed information about these sections is provided below.


The appendix (or a series of appendices) usually follows the main text, and contains material that is useful for a detailed review of the study, but is not essential to an understanding of the text. For example, an appendix is the appropriate section in which to place material such as raw data, the results of individual laboratory analyses, or sample forms. This may be useful supporting data even though it is not specifically utilized in the text. Note, however, that some reference should be made in the text to the fact that these materials appear in the appendix. The pages of the appendices are numbered in sequence with those of the text. Although it is preferable, you do not have to meet margin requirements for the material in your appendix, except for the left-hand margin.

After the last page of text, include a list of appendices on a separate page. Individual appendices should start on a separate page and should be clearly marked.

The list of appendices should also be included in the Table of Contents. To list appendices in your Table of Contents, use "Appendices" as your major heading. On the next line, indent five spaces, and begin listing each appendix with its title (e.g., "Appendix A. Survey Data") and page number.


No manuscript is complete without a full listing of the necessary bibliographic information about the sources upon which the study is based. In most cases, only those sources actually cited in the study are listed. This section will be called "List of References", "References Cited", or simply "References", and all pages are counted and numbered. The list is most often arranged alphabetically, although it may follow some other logical plan. It will follow the appendices.

MS Word Template

Templates for the Front Matter of your manuscript are available at the Front Matter Templates section of this site. This page also includes samples of completed front and reference material. This section is a valuable visual reference to format the Front Matter with the proper lowercase Roman numeral pagination.

LaTeX Style

The LaTeX Style is popular with specific research disciplines, such as Engineering and the Math sciences. For a LaTeX Style File for formatting theses and dissertations, connect to LaTeX Template and Style Files

Please note that computer-generated manuscripts are subject to the same formatting requirements as other manuscripts.

The problems listed below are among the most common, but manuscripts can be returned for other problems as well.

Front Matter

Formatting on Front Matter is very detailed. Make sure that formatting matches examples (especially red-bordered pages) and that pages are numbered correctly. (A sample of completed Front Matter is available on this web site.)


Margins for the entire manuscript must be:

  • Left: 1.25 or 1.5 inches
  • Top, Right, Bottom: 1 inch

Exceptions: Top, right and bottom margins may vary in the Appendix pages, but the left margin must be 1.25 or 1.5 inches throughout the ENTIRE manuscript (including Front Matter, References, and Appendices). Page numbers in the Appendices must also appear consistently as in the rest of the manuscript.

Landscape-oriented Figures and Tables

Margin requirements must be met, and page numbers must be placed consistently as in the rest of the manuscript.

Table of Contents/Headings & Subheadings

Your Table of Contents will be checked against the body of your manuscript.

  • Page numbers must be correct.
  • All headings and subheadings that appear at the same level should have the same appearance in the body of the manuscript and be distinguished from other heading-levels by appearance or numbering.
  • All headings and subheadings (as many levels as you include in the Table of Contents) should appear in the Table of Contents. If you have some third-level headings in the Table of Contents, then ALL third-level subheadings should appear in the Table of Contents.
  • The major section headings (usually Chapter headings) should each begin on a new page. Other levels should not be started on a new page.


All required manuscript forms must be submitted to Graduate Studies manuscript coordinator before submitting manuscript to UNM Digital Repository by graduate degree deadline. The forms to be submitted are attached below.

Category (Click links for descriptions and instructions)Form
Certificate of Final Form for ManuscriptsPDF
Electronic ETD Release FormPDF
Information Cover SheetPDF
Survey of Earned Doctorates (Excluding MFA/EDD):Register Here

The University of New Mexico encourages open access to all theses and dissertations produced for graduate degrees. Therefore, all theses and dissertations are submitted electronically in PDF format to Graduate Studies. These electronically submitted theses and dissertations (ETDs) are uploaded on a server housed in the UNM Digital Repository, where they are accessible for search and download through web search engines such as Google.  In most cases, students submitting ETDs benefit from having their work available in the open access repository. In some special cases, however, students may want to delay making their work available for varying lengths of time.  For this reason, UNM has implemented an embargo policy that enables students, with approval from their advisers and Graduate Studies, to delay public-wide access to their work in the UNM Digital Repository. While under embargo the manuscript nonetheless remains available to the University of New Mexico academic community in order to satisfy requirements for the degree. Before submitting your thesis or dissertation, please consult with your committee chair and review the embargo restriction policy to determine whether or not you should release your work to open access or petition for an appropriate embargo option. If the decision is made to request an embargo restriction then the form must be submitted to Graduate Studies at the same time as you submit the Announcement of Examination form at least two weeks before your dissertation defense.

Steps for Submitting Your Manuscript

Once your thesis or dissertation committee approves your final manuscript and you have made all necessary revisions and corrections, you are ready to submit your work as a single pdf file to the UNM Digital Repository and, for dissertation writers, the ProQuest ETD Administrator archive following the instructions below. At the minimum, you must submit your thesis or dissertation to Graduate Studies within (90) ninety days of your final defense or by the graduation deadline for the term in which you are graduating, whichever comes first.

Submission Instructions by Degree:

Note: You must submit the manuscript as a pdf file, thus you will need to convert your Microsoft Word document or any other document to the pdf format. As of May 2011, Graduate Studies has learned that when using either a PC or Macintosh platform with recent versions of Microsoft Office you may lose some formatting when converting your Word document into pdf or when submitting your pdf document to the UNM Digital Repository. To protect against such problems, it is important that you create and save all changes to your document on the same computer platform and using the same version of Microsoft Office. Thus, when you complete your final manuscript do not shift between computers and different versions of Word. If you encounter these problems, contact the Manuscript Coordinator at Graduate Studies for assistance.

Steps to Create Your Manuscript (Microsoft Word)

If you need help creating a single file for your manuscript, click here.